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Importance of Survival Skills

Wil Wheaton on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Depression, and Recovery


My name is Wil Wheaton, I am an actor, writer,
and producer. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I have, I forget the exact medical term
for it, but it’s sort of like chronic depression. I wasn’t aware of how my mental illness was
affecting me until I was suffering from it for easily 15 or 20 years. Because what I
accepted as just kind of normal was part of my mental illness expressing itself. When
I decided to go and get help and see a psychiatrist and actually like, look into getting medication,
was probably about 6 or 7 years ago. My wife and I were getting ready to go on a trip to
Minneapolis, I was performing in a show with some friends, and we just had a really horrible
time at the airport, and people were really unhelpful, it was super crowded, we were going
to miss our flight, and I just freaked out. And I was like, screw this, I want to cancel
the show, I don’t even want to go. My wife sat me down, at the airport, and said, I’m
going to take care of this, just sit here and be quiet, and when we get back from this
trip, you really need to go see a doctor. She had seen for a long time that I just had
these really bad mood swings, where I would freak out at stuff that didn’t seem like,
my reactions to things were way out of proportion to what the actual thing was that was upsetting.
And it got to be really bad, it was things like, this traffic is so bad, that rather
than sit through like 20 minutes or whatever this traffic is, forget it, I’m going home.
And like, real irrational decisions and things like that. My doctor told me it would take
probably 3 weeks for me to really feel the effects of the medication he put me on. And
that was because my body needed time to react to how things change. And I want to say it
was a week and a half, or something like that, probably close to 2 weeks, after I started
treatment, my wife and I were just having a walk in the neighborhood, and I realized
that it was a really beautiful day. And it was warm, and there was this wonderful little
bit of a breeze, and birds sounded really beautiful, and flowers smelled really great,
and my wife’s hand felt really good in my hand, and we’re walking, and I just started
to cry. And she was like, what’s wrong? I was like, I just realized that I don’t feel
bad. I just realized, that I’m not existing, I’m living. And the best way that I could
describe it, is that I lived my life in a room that was so loud, all I could do every
day was just deal with how loud it was, and I found a doorway out of that room, and at
that moment I realized that the loudness of that room wasn’t oppressing me anymore. And
I was aware of a ringing in my ears which meant the noise was going away and wasn’t
coming back, and that I was on my way to, like, having a normal life. Like that normal
for me was changing. That it wasn’t constantly worrying about things, and it wasn’t constantly
giving up on stuff and feeling like it’s just not worth going to my friend’s house because
huge list of irrational reasons that I shouldn’t go. And that I was going to be able to experience
things, and travel, and just, be a person. And it’s so weird to say that, like, I was
like I can be a person now, like oh I’m learning how to human. And it was the beginning of
this journey that continues, of learning how to live life with depression, rather than
living life through depression. Our life is this complicated interaction and intermingling
of chemicals in our brains, and experiences we have, and relationships we choose, and
relationships that are chosen for us, and sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s hard,
and as long as you are doing what you can to take care of yourself and to leave everyday
a little bit kinder than it started, things are going to be alright. You are not the only
person in the world who has anxiety. You’re not the only person in the world who has depression.
You’re not the only person in the world who has thoughts of self harm. There are people
who want to help you, there are people who have spent their entire lives helping people
like you and me, and all of the people that you are seeing in this video, and you are
not alone. You are okay.

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